The Boy Who Listened To Paintings

By Dean Kostos and Paul Kirby
Directed by Lissa Moira
February 1 – February 18
FEB 1 - FEB 18; THU, FRI, SAT at 8 PM, SUN at 3 PM

Executive Director, Crystal Field


The Boy Who Listened To Paintings

Book and Lyrics by Dean Kostos and Paul Kirby
Directed by Lissa Moira

February 1 – 18, 2024
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00 PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM

Tickets: $18, Students and Seniors $15
Run Time: 2 hours with 10 minute intermission

Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Street)

“The Boy Who Listened To Paintings” is a new musical theater work based on the memoir of the same name by the late visual artist and poet Dean Kostos (1954 – 2022), an extensively published, award-winning poet. It is the story of a young, sensitive visual artist growing up in the 1960s in a highly dysfunctional family. Bullied to the point of suicide, he contends with his budding gay sexuality, a flirtation with hard drugs and other confusing exigencies of life. He is saved by discovering he has the gift of synesthesia: the production of a sense impression relating to one sense by stimulating another sense. With book by Dean Kostos and Paul Kirby, music by Paul Kirby and direction by Lissa Moira, the musical will be presented by Theater for the New City(TNC) for its world premiere February 1 to 18.

Before his unexpected death from heart-related issues in November 2022, Dean Kostos had co-authored the work with composer Paul Kirby. It was presented as a Zoom production in April 2021, directed by Lissa Moira. The Zoom production was an example of what Lissa Moira and Paul Kirby were going to do with the work, and Kostos was very enthusiastic about their participation in it and encouraged them to create an in-person production. Now Theater for the New City will present the work’s stage premiere with a cast of 21 directed by Moira and music by Kirby.

Dean Kostos (1954 – 2022) founded the Greek-American Writers’ Association and authored eight books. One of them, “The Boy Who Listened to Paintings” (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019), is part of a growing literature of memoirs by boys and girls who have been treated in mental hospitals. It is a lucid portrait of the artist as an adolescent mental patient, whose self-destructive despair is overcome by therapy, connections with other patients, painting, poetry and the kind intervention of influential arts patrons. His nightmare is experienced through the filter of his adult survival and recovery. He manages to survive through appreciation of his own synesthesia and thanks to the slow realization that art itself is health.

The musical follows the plot of the memoir almost entirely. Bullied to the brink of suicide, the Dean Kostos character–renamed Nicky Thanos–spends two years in the mental hospital where his mother had stayed: the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, known to its inhabitants as “The Toot.” He endures a condescending and sex-fixated psychiatrist,   contemporaries who insult or ignore him and his own confused or distracted parents. He benefits from a caring nurse, a mind-enhancing teacher and older patients who guide him on his way. He also encounters patients his own age who form a supportive, loving fraternity. The story is life-enhancing. At the end of his nearly two years at the Toot, he emerges a happier, wiser, better person.

Kirby’s music is Broadway flavored. Musical director Peter Dizozza accompanies the show on a single piano.

Nicky, at different ages of his life, will be played by four actors: Michael A. Green, Milo Longenecker, and brothers Niko and Luka Zylik. The other actors are Louisa Bradshaw, William Broderick, Thom Brown, Maude Elizabeth Burke, Anthony Cedeno, Donovan W. Counts, Alisa Ermolaev, Dominique Ernewein, Matthew James Fitzgerald, Alyson Reim Friedman, Patrick Kenner, Taryn Lynch, Zack Martin, Lissa Moira, Bradley Nowacek, Carlos Rodriguez Ortiz, Amelia Sasson and Toni Renee Taylor.

Louisa Bradshaw*
William Broderick*
Thom Brown III
Donovan W. Counts
Alisa Ermolaev
Matthew James Fitzgerald*
Alyson Reim Friedman*
Michael A. Green
Milo Longenecker*
Zack Martin*
Lissa Moira*
The Zylik Brothers, Luka and Niko

Maude Elizabeth Burke*
Anthony Cedeno
Joshua Credle
Dominique Ernewein
Patrick Kenner*
Taryn Lynch
Bradley Nowacek
Amelia Sasson*
Toni Renee Taylor*

*Appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Book and Lyrics by Dean Kostos and Paul Kirby
Directed by Lissa Moira
Music by Paul Kirby
Musical Director – Peter Dizozza
Lighting Design – Alexander Bartenieff
Costume Design – Billy Little
Video and Projection Design – Alan Hanna
Stage Manager – Emma Weiner
Choreographer – Toni Renee Taylor
Dance Captain – Dominique Ernewein

Dean Kostos (book/co-lyricist) was the author of nine books of poetry and the memoir of the same title, published by Spuyten Duyvil, on which this musical is based. He was also an educator, anthologist, and editor of Pomegranate Seeds, an anthology of Greek-American Poetry. His collection, “This is Not a Skyscraper,” was selected by Mark Doty for Red Hen Press’s prestigious 2013 Benjamin Saltman Award. His collections also included “Rivering,” “Last Supper of the Senses,” “The Sentence That Ends With a Comma” and “Celestial Rust.” His poems, personal essays  and translations appeared in over 300 journals. He co-edited “Mama’s Boy: Gay Men Write About Their Mothers.” His libretto, “Dialogue: Angel of Peace, Angel of War,” was set to music by James Bassi and performed by Voices of Ascension. He taught at Wesleyan, the Gallatin School of NYU, and at CUNY. He received a Rockefeller Innovation Grant,was invited to read at Princeton and Harvard, and was the recipient of a Yaddo Fellowhsip. He died at age 68 in 2022.

Paul H Kirby (composer/co-lyricist) serves as organist at Zion-St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and 7th Church of Christ, Scientist NYC, and as Vice President of the Musicians Club of New York. He composed and conducted two performances of The Night of the Secretary-General, an opera on texts of Dag Hammarskjöld, in 2017. Two of his compositions are currently published by Carl Fischer, Inc. He has served as music director of several symphony orchestras. He received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from CUNY in 1996, and has participated in the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.

In 2017, Kirby collaborated with director Lissa Moira on a music drama, “The Night of the Secretary-General,” which he composed for one singer and a nine-piece orchestra on texts taken from Dag Hammarskjöld’s “Markings,” a combination memoir, poetry, musings and reflections translated by W. H. Auden and Leif Sjöberg.

Lissa Moira (director) is a playwright, screenwriter, director, artist and poet.   She is two-time Jerome Foundation grantee and an OOBR Award-winning actress. She directed and was dramaturg of “Siren’s Heart, Norma Jean and Marilyn in Purgatory” by Walt Stepp, which enjoyed a seven-week run at TNC in 2011 and then played 14 months Off-Broadway at the Actors Temple starring Louisa Bradshaw. The following year, she directed “Skybox,” also by Walt Stepp, at TNC.   Her direction of “Cocaine Dreams” at the Kraine was described by the NY Post (Chip Deffaa) as “inspired.” Last season, she directed two musicals at TNC: “Who Murdered Love?” a Dadaist musical comedy which she co-wrote with Richard West, and “Bliss Street,” an Indie Rock musical by   Abra Bigham from a concept by Rich Brotman with songs by Charlie Sub. The latter show traced the role of the club-owning Sub family in the making of New York’s decade of punk, glam and glitter rock.

Paul Kirby, Lissa Moira and the entire production team extend their thanks and gratitude to Crystal Field for nurturing new productions and allowing them complete artistic freedom to explore and create as they seek to bring “The Boy Who Listened To Paintings” to the stage at Theater For The New City. Paul Kirby writes, “It has been a pleasure for Dean Kostos and me to work with Crystal Field and TNC in bringing our work first to a Zoom reading and finally to a fully staged performance. Dean has also read some of his poetry at TNC, so I am sure that, if he were alive today, he would join me in gratitude to have been a part of the innovative work of TNC.”


COVID Protocol:
As of September 26th, 2022, we are no longer requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for our audience upon entry.
Wearing of masks is suggested in the lobby, restrooms and performance spaces at Theater for the New City, but they are not required.